We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Pond project could improve clarity on Lake Okabena

“It’s so clear this year,” said Manager Jay Milbrandt during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. “The lake has just been the best.”

FILE PHOTO: Seagulls alight on Lake Okabena after a thunderstorm moves through the Worthington area in 2021. Tim Middagh / The Globe
FILE PHOTO: Seagulls alight on Lake Okabena after a thunderstorm moves through the Worthington area in 2021. Tim Middagh / The Globe
We are part of The Trust Project.

WORTHINGTON — As people gear up for the annual Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival, it might be a good time to take a look at the lake playing host to it, as several people have remarked on Lake Okabena’s clarity to the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Board of Managers recently.

MORE REGATTA NEWS
Festival is Friday through Sunday.
The annual event takes center stage on Lake Okabena this weekend.
At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels.

“It’s so clear this year,” said Manager Jay Milbrandt during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. “The lake has just been the best.”

He was referring to the results of multiple watershed projects, including one at the former Prairie View Golf Course that prevents about 900 pounds of phosphorus from reaching Lake Okabena annually.

Phosphorus fuels algae growth, which can play a part in decreasing water quality, hindering recreation and damaging habitat for other lake creatures.

Milbrandt said multiple people have commented on how the lake’s algae blooms — which are fueled and worsened by phosphorus — have been less severe and shorter than in previous years, and that the lake’s clarity has improved. He said it didn't seem like it was a total coincidence that it happened just after the Prairie View project, either.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I think it is starting to be very noticeable and cumulative,” said Rolf Mahlberg, board president, noting that he’d had a few people tell him they’d never been able to see their toes through the water at the end of their docks while they were putting those docks in before.

The Prairie View project removed an estimated 30% of the phosphorus coming into Lake Okabena.

Now the watershed board is pondering another project that would stop about 330 pounds of phosphorus a year from reaching Lake Okabena — a large pond on District 518 land near the Intermediate School. The original cost estimate for the project was $1.2 million, and it could potentially be partially paid for with a grant from the state of Minnesota.

A preliminary report on the project found that it would cost about $154 per pound of phosphorus removed, said Watershed Administrator Dan Livdahl, a stark contrast with the less than $20 per pound removed by the Prairie View project.

“So I started calling other watershed people and saying ‘Well you know, how much is too much to spend per pound of phosphorus?’” Livdahl said. “And everybody I talked to said ‘That’s the wrong attitude.’”

Instead, they told him that if it solves the problem, spending $300 a pound would be fine, but that if it doesn’t solve the problem, any amount of money would be too much.

“The question is whether 10% is enough removal to spend $154 per (pound),” Livdahl said.

Mahlberg said he was encouraged by the potential of the project, though he’d also thought “Wow, that’s expensive.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Livdahl recommended speaking with the District 518 Board of Education again about the project to see if the pond remains a possibility, as well as the city of Worthington, and the board agreed.

“You know, this is the jewel of our town,” Mahlberg said of Lake Okabena.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
What to read next
After speaking, the bestselling mystery-thriller novelist took questions, politely refused to give spoilers and kindly signed autographs for fans.
The Fulda Ambulance assisted at the scene.
This marks the first time that all of the colleges and universities of Minnesota State have waived the application fee for an entire month.
This is the final of six installments featuring new teachers in Worthington District 518.